Even though Softeyes is comprised of some of Annapolis’ most identifiable musicians, their collaborative effort, “You Can’t Quit A Family” is a revelation. Fronted by Annapolis’ resident chameleon Casey Callahan-Hean and Baltimore-based singer Josephine Olivia Herbst, Softeyes sarcastically describes their sound as “the soundtrack to all of life’s special moments” but that might not be nearly as ridiculous a statement as they intended. First single, “Everything I Love Is Killing Me” is quite simply, indie pop perfection. It’s simultaneously dreamy and propulsive and in a fair world, would reside on radio playlists alongside indie stalwarts like Belle & Sebastian. It’s so good, in fact, it would almost be understandable if the rest of the record felt like somewhat of a letdown. But thanks to Olivia’s ethereal, nearly otherworldly vocals, that’s far from the case. Album highlights include the spooky coolness of “Vampire Girl,” the near trip-hop of “Gold,” and the lilt of the fabulous “Impending Doom.” Sounding fragile but not broken, Olivia’s voice is simply the sound of resilience. And set against the backdrop of these weighty but catchy, carefully constructed songs, it adds up to a debut that often brushes up against brilliance.
Listen to (and buy) lead single “Everything I Love Is Killing Me”:
After three years of combing the archives and assembling a talented roster of some of Maryland’s best vocalists, Underground Wednesday Records is proud to announce the tracklist from the upcoming Diving Horses debut album. Diving Horses is an electronic music project created by the Annapolis-based production duo of multi-instrumentalist Softeyes and DJ Dan Mollen.
The self-titled debut album re-imagines a range of seminal modern and classic rock songs (from artists as diverse as New Order and AC/DC) as indie-dancefloor anthems. It features the vocalists from some of Annapolis’ best bands including Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Future People, Swampcandy, Starbelly, Van Meter, the Geckos, Pompeii Graffiti, Cole Cash, Hypnotic Panties, Happy Little Robots, and Ethics Committee, as well as solo artists Tobias Russell Music, Dean Rosenthal and Joseph Karr.
Ceremony (New Order) feat. Jennifer Van Meter
Money Talks (AC/DC) feat. Kahz
Evil Woman (ELO) feat. Jimi HaHa and Jennifer Reichwein
Heroes (David Bowie) feat. Pompeii Graffiti and Bri Ong
For Whom The Bell Tolls (Metallica) feat. Softeyes
Magnificent Seven (Clash) feat. Tobias Russell
Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush) feat. Ruben Dobbs
Let’s Go (Cars) feat. Joseph Karr
Never Tear Us Apart (INXS) feat. Starbelly
Cuts You Up (Peter Murphy) feat. Greg Harris
In Between Days (Cure) feat. Kevin Martin and Dean Rosenthal
I Wanna Be Adored (Stone Roses) feat. Jimi HaHa
Stay tuned for the release of the first single “Evil Woman” in August 2013 followed by the full-length debut in early fall.
“Let’s get the band back together.” How many times have those words been spoken? But fortunately, it’s often as difficult logistically as it is artistically, so reuniting with teenage bandmates typically remains pondered but rarely accomplished. That’s usually a good thing. In the case of Annapolis band Pompeii Graffiti, getting them back together took a phone call from the sound engineer of their nearly abandoned debut recording. The results are as promising as they are surprising.
When we first met Ahren Buchheister, he was a 16 year old prodigy that impressed Ruben Dobbs so much as a guitar student that Ruben asked him to join his band Swampcandy. By the summer of 2005, he had formed Pompeii Graffiti with several classmates and they enjoyed the success associated with winning several categories in the Anne Arundel County HS Battle of the Bands. But as life often does, it got in the way as several band members headed off to college, leaving an unfinished demo in their wake. Fortunately, for them and us, local producer and engineer Ryan Cullen was so impressed by the early recordings that he urged Buchheister to reform the band early this year.
Despite the continuing academic careers of two of the original band members, Pompeii Graffiti did reunite by adding bassist Tyler Grimsley and badass local drummer Robin Eckman (Burn the Fields, Elder Statesmen, Cookie Head Jenkins) to the mainstays of Buchheister, vocalist Stephanie Leger and keyboardist Cara Santin. The band also performs with a rotating lineup of other musicians, including violinists, cellists, trumpet players, and rappers and the resulting sound is as varied as it is mature.
Don’t be thrown by the Judas Priest-esque album title “Five Minutes To Midnight.” Or the sea of feedback that accompanies opening track “Pickadilly 3rd.” This is a record that smartly makes it way around the rock landscape with songs that often unfold in movements, veering seamlessly from orchestral pop to gentle folk to rock that brushes up against both metal and punk. And for a record with fairly large aspirations, there’s also a humorous vain that keeps pretense to a minimum.
There’s the lovely and trumpet-augmented “Whale Song (Apology)” that owes a sonic debt to local songwriter extraordinaire Jimi Davies and his band Jarflys. The absolutely fabulous “Blankets” features slightly distorted call-and response backing vocals from Leger tucked into a tremendous pop arrangement. The jagged “Bad Social Habit” calls to mind the art punk of modern purveyors like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Los Campesinos!
And what can we say about “Emo Dance Song.” First off, it’s called “Emo Dance Song.” Secondly, it’s opening lines are “Another goddamn emo song/crying in the basement with the lights off” before setting off on a driving chorus that sounds like Franz Ferdinand and Interpol at the same time. That’s a song, my friends. The faux-hip hop of “I Got Style” with it’s over-the-top posturing and ironic musings about finance and romance (Where’s the G’s at?/Where the money? Where all my gangsta homies/With the honeys) begins almost as pure comedy but something even funnier happens along the way – it actually becomes a good song. By coupling rapper Jesse “Casheer” Smith and the violin, they manage to poke fun at the genre and make Kanye jealous at the same time.
But they save the best for last with the album closer “Settle For Less.” From its opening strings to its Rhodes-driven hook, it’s a song that unfolds over nearly seven minutes and showcases the male and female vocal interplay between Buchheister and Leger that defines the band’s sound.
For a bunch of kids, Pompeii Graffiti sounds like an old band and we mean that in the nicest possible way. In an era where indie has turned toward folk but all too often in the direction of the disingenuous energy of bands like Mumford &Sons, the multi-instrumentalists in Pompeii Graffiti have delivered a self-assured debut that demonstrates a wisdom beyond their years.
Despite having only released their debut recording in May of 2010, the band formerly known as the Names have already had to change, well, their name. The moniker Dirty Names certainly seems appropriate because while they’re still firmly grounded in vintage rock and roll, just a hint of eyeliner now appears to be making an appearance in the proceedings.
Underground Wednesday described their debut as “straight-up rock and roll done right by four kids with all the right influences on their sleeves,” and while that certainly remains the case, they’ve shifted their allegiance from Nuggets-era early Stones to their Exile On Main Street heyday of the early seventies. And what glorious fingerprints they are. Recorded live at Mill Creek studio over the course of just one day, Rock And Roll Mind Control feels both stripped down and fleshed out at the same time.
In a year where the Black Eyed Peas performed at halftime at the Super Bowl, what the world needs is a return to rock and roll with verve and grit and the Dirty Names deliver both in spades. “Rock and Roll Mind Control” is the lone holdover from the album and gets the live-in-studio treatment that the original deserved. “Don’t Try Making A Move” is the bastard child of Little Richard’s “Lucille” and Exile’s “Rip This Joint.” “I Don’t Dare” is a Jagger homage right down to Harrison Cofer’s impression of Mick’s pseudo-Southern accent. “Swimming” flat-out rings and even with the presence of high harmonies that are positively Keith-esque, it owes every bit as much to Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds as the Glimmer Twins.
But the real jewel here is the exuberant “Salt Water Jackie.” Reminiscent of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” it features Cofer’s best vocal performance to date, fortified by tasty piano accents courtesy of new member John Countryman, and a taut hook that just keeps gaining momentum. It’s further evidence that these local kids are about to make good.